State Sen. Daniel Squadron might have a solution to the inequities within the city’s green spaces.
The “Equity in Parks” regulation, which Squadron proposed on behalf of the Neighborhood Parks Alliance in front of the City Council last week, would attempt to harness some of the funds from powerhouse fundraising conservancies — chief among them the Central Park Conservancy — and share them with the hundreds of other parks across the city that operate under razor-thin margins set by the city budget.
Conservancies for parks that service affluent communities, like Central and Prospect parks, are able to pull in funds exponentially larger than those set by the city for other parks.
For example, this year the Central Park Conservancy will contribute 75% of Central Park’s $58 million expense budget, while the Van Cortland Park Conservancy’s entire budget for the year is only $200,000 — despite being the third largest park in the city.
Squadron (D-Manhattan) justified the reallocation by pointing to the fact that conservancies are not private charities, or fully independent nonprofits supporting a private cause, but rather that they have a “contractual relationship with the city.”
Many city officials and advocates for increased park funding say that City Hall must make the first move.
“I think there are private donors out there who might be willing to help and raise some dollars for lower-income communities, but the city is the one who has to make the first step,” said Tupper Thomas, executive director of the watchdog group New Yorkers For Parks.
When Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver was introduced by the mayor in March, he acknowledged the funding discrepancy and said one of his goals was ensuring that each city-operated space’s needs were met.
“The bigger answer is that we need to get back to a system that we are adequately funding our parks through the city budgets,” said state Assemb. Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan), who helped draft Squadron’s legislation.